Prasanna found guilty

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Colombo High Court Judge Manjula Thillakaratne, yesterday (6), sentenced Minister of Housing and Urban Development and Chief Government Whip, Prasanna Ranatunga to two years Rigorous Imprisonment, suspended for five years, in the Meethotamulla land dispute case. 

Meanwhile, the Minister was also fined Rs 25 million by the HC Judge, who also ordered that failure to pay the fine will carry an additional nine months imprisonment.

In addition, Judge Thillakaratne further ordered Ranatunga to pay a compensation in one million rupees to the complainant, businessman Gerard Mendis, and said failure to pay the compensation, would result in an additional three months incarceration.

Meanwhile, two other accused in the case, including the Minister’s wife, Maureen Ranatunga and another individual Naresh Farik, were acquitted from the charges filed against them and ordered to be released from case.

Delivering the verdict of the trial, which had lasted since 2018, Judge Manjula Thillakaratne stated that out of the 15 charges filed against the three accused, Ranatunga was found guilty of the offence related signing of promissory notes through intimidation.

Continuing further, the Judge explained that when perusing all evidence put before him during the trial, it was amply clear to him that the first accused Prasanna Ranatunga had exceeded his political power.

President’s Counsel Anil Silva, appearing for the defendant, told Court, “My client was subjected to a surgery on 20 March this year. Furthermore, in the wake of the violence, that erupted in the country on 9 May, my client’s Udugampola house was badly damaged and that forced him to postpone his daughter’s wedding as well. His daughter is also currently experiencing mental anguish over that incident. My client is a Cabinet Minister. If a stern or stiff punishment is meted out to my client that could also have a negative impact on the smooth functioning of the Cabinet as well.

Hence, I urge this Court, to seriously consider the consequences for this country and deliver the verdict accordingly and hand down a lenient punishment to my client.”

DSG Dileepa Peiris, on behalf of the Attorney General’s Department stated “This trial had been heard in this Court since 2018. At the outset of this trial, the accused did not plead guilty to the charges against him. This case proceeded over the past four-year period from the tax payer’s monies and now we have managed to get a verdict.

Also the verdicts issued by the Judiciary, a statement has to be given to the society that whether its politicians or any VIPs, they have no God given right to use their positions and power to intimidate civilians. That is because the civilians voted for the accused to enter the Western Provincial Council not to strike business deals. If there are more people like this, then this verdict, in our view will turn out to be an eye opener. The first accused had intimidated and threatened a businessman in connection with the transactions of a land in Meethotamulla of 322 perches. He was charged and now convicted of demanding a sum of Rs 64 million from the businessman to evict unauthorised dwellers from that land and to refill it during his stint as the Chief Minister of the Western Province.

Taking the submissions into account, the Judge pronounced his verdict and he fixed the next trial date to 20 June, towards the facilitation of the payment of the fine and compensation by the accused.

The AG had filed 15 indictments against the former Western Province (WP) Chief Minister, before the Colombo High Court, in May six years ago, accusing him of threatening businessman Gerard Mendis in connection with the transactions of a land in Meethotamulla of 322 perches from 6 April to 2 June 2015.

Ranatunga was accused of threatening a businessman and demanding Rs. 64 million, to evict unauthorised occupants of a land in the Meethotamulla area in Kolonnawa and to refill the land, during his tenure as the WP Chief Minister.

The third accused in the trial Naresh Farik, had absconded Court, having fled overseas and the Court ordered to proceed with the case in his absence.

By Hansi Nanayakkara